Strengths & Challenges of Down Syndrome
Individuals with Down syndrome are more like their typically developing peers than they are different. Children and teens with Down syndrome accomplish amazing and ordinary things every day. They have dreams and hopes for their future and the determination to meet their goals.
Although people with Down syndrome experience learning difficulties that lead to delays in many areas of development, not all areas are affected equally. If you are homeschooling a child with this condition, you can maximize the effectiveness of their education by capitalizing on their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.
Is Down Syndrome a Learning Disability?
Most individuals with Down syndrome have IQs that fall in the mild to moderate range of intellectual disability. A single extra chromosome may define whether someone has a genetic disorder, but it doesn’t have to define what that person is capable of. While children and teens with Down syndrome usually have some type of learning disability, this can often mask a wide variety of talents and abilities.
It’s also important to note that children with Down syndrome usually develop at a different rate than their peers. Just because they may not meet an educational milestone at the same time as another child/teen their age doesn’t mean they won’t reach it at all. As with all students, there is a wide range of abilities, behavior, and physical development among children with Down syndrome.
Down Syndrome Learning Strengths
You certainly don’t need convincing about how terrific your child is, but it can’t hurt to be reminded that the very traits that make them so magnificent are ones that you can lean on to maximize their learning potential. Some of the specific learning strengths that characterize many children with Down syndrome include:
- A distinct preference for visual learning
- High capacity for empathy and social understanding
- Strong visual short-term memory
- Steady vocabulary acquisition
- Age-appropriate self-help and daily living skills
- A natural adeptness with technologies
Down Syndrome Learning Difficulties
Certainly, your student with Down syndrome has challenges that will affect the way they learn. Keeping them in mind will guide you toward choosing the right mix of materials, curricula, and assistive technologies that minimize their consequences. Some of the specific learning difficulties that characterize many children with Down syndrome include:
- Hearing and vision weakness
- Fine motor skill impairment due to low muscle tone
- Weak auditory memory
- Short attention span and distractibility
- Sequencing difficulties
Best Educational Strategies for Students with Down Syndrome
Now that you have begun to understand the unique strengths and weaknesses your child with Down syndrome has, the next step is to determine how to maximize their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. When homeschooling, this is done by choosing programs, materials, and approaches that are customized to your son or daughter’s specific needs.
Here are some ideas for how to support your student when homeschooling:
- Create a language-rich environment. Place large, colorful labels on frequently used items in your home, spend plenty of time reading with and to your child, and don’t be hesitant to incorporate sign-language into your communication–especially for language-delayed children.
- Establish clear behavioural expectations. Your child will thrive from structure in his/her day.
- Pace your day appropriately. Schedule the majority of your instructional time for the part of the day where your child/teen is at their best. Take frequent breaks during instruction, as well.
- Reduce background noise and overstimulating distractions when possible.
- Make instructions clear, direct, and simple; use visual instructions as often as possible, especially during transitions.
- Break information down into small bits.
- Use assistive technologies and visual curricula and materials liberally.
How Time4Learning Helps Students with Down Syndrome
Time4Learning’s online curriculum focuses on educational strategies that tap into the technological and visual strengths of children with Down syndrome. It can be used as the core educational curriculum, summer study or as an after school reinforcement.
It is a student-paced program filled with clear graphics, and simple sounds that don’t get in the way. The lessons go from preschool to twelfth grade, and the levels of the subjects can be set independently. This helps children who perform or progress at vastly different levels in these major subjects. Children progress at their own rate using multisensory learning that helps each learning style.
The convenience of taking breaks when your child gets tired or frustrated, repeating lessons they struggle with and moving along those that they pick up on quickly prove extremely beneficial to many families of children with this diagnosis.
Check out all our lesson demos for your grade level and different subjects to see how Time4Learning can help your child.
Additional Resources Related to Homeschooling a Child with Down Syndrome
Have other questions about homeschooling your child with Down syndrome? You may find the following pages helpful.